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The Healthy Way to Gain Weight


Updated May 27, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Woman eating cereal
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You need to increase your caloric intake in order to gain weight. It doesn't matter if you eat extra meals or increase the size of the meals you normally eat -- that's up to you -- but don't fall into a junk food trap. Choose weight-gaining foods that are both energy-dense and nutrient-dense such as dairy products, meats, seafood and poultry, legumes, nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados.

Weight Gaining Tips

  • Have an extra slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter at breakfast.
  • Add extra cheese to an omelet -- and use an extra egg.
  • Slice an apple and serve with peanut or nut butter.
  • Stir chopped nuts into plain yogurt and add honey.
  • Add a few more calories to plain potatoes with gravy or cheese sauces.
  • Top green and colorful vegetables with butter, margarine (trans-fat free), olive oil, sauces or cheese.
  • Carry a bag of trail mix for a convenient snack.
  • You can increase your protein intake (and calories) with protein bars.
  • Serve yourself larger portions of starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet corn.
  • Add calories with a nutritious beverage such as milk, 100-percent fruit juices, or vegetable juice.

Meal Planning

If you're not used to eating much at any one time, you may prefer to eat several small meals or snacks throughout the day. If you'd rather eat less often, increase your portion sizes or add more foods to each meal.

Your meals should be balanced with the right amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Choose a generous portion of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, legumes or tofu, and serve with a side of green and colorful vegetables, and something starchy like potatoes, sweet corn, rice or pasta.

If you prefer to snack on smaller meals throughout the day, choose trail-mix made with dried fruit, granola, nuts and seeds. Eat sandwiches made with peanut or other nut butters, or make your sandwiches with turkey, roast beef or chicken breast slices, and add calories with cheese or avocado. Creamed soups are higher in calories than clear broths, and you can add even more calories by stirring in a spoonful of dry milk powder.

Will Dietary Supplements Help?

Dietary supplements that promise weight gain and bigger muscles don't work, and they may be dangerous.

Some of these products may contain hidden ingredients that can be harmful or compounds that haven't been studied for efficacy or safety. The United States Food and Drug Administration maintains a list of tainted bodybuilding products that should be avoided.

If you feel you can't gain weight by simply increasing your caloric intake, you should see your health care provider before taking any protein or weight-gaining supplements.

What About Exercise?

Resistance training exercises (weight lifting) may help to increase your muscle size, which can increase your body weight. Aerobic exercises, such as running and stationary bicycling, are better for fat loss. Excessive aerobic training may cause you to lose weight.


Medline Plus. "Appetite - Decreased." Accessed May 6, 2011. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003121.htm.

Woods NF, LaCroix AZ, Gray SL, Aragaki A, Cochrane BB, Brunner RL, Masaki K, Murray A, Newman AB; Women's Health Initiative. "Frailty: emergence and consequences in women aged 65 and older in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study." J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Aug;53(8):1321-30.


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